College Looking For an Angle



Charlotte @
Appalachian State

In retrospect, Charlotte’s competitive 56-41 loss (and comfy spread cover as a 22½-point dog) last September 7 at Boone hinted at the immediate upgrades in the program that were augmented by then first-year HC Will Healy, who had previously resurrected a moribund Austin Peay before making the move up the ladder to Conference USA. Only 33 when hired the preceding December, Healy was able to quickly ignite the 49er offense now operating out of the spread option, which suited then-soph QB Chris Reynolds just fine, reflected by his 4 TDP at App, keying a 526-yard offensive eruption. The 49ers had even pulled within one score inside of 4 minutes to play before the Mounties’ Darrynton Evans returned an onside kick 46 yards to finally provide App a bit of breathing room. Before the 2019 campaign concluded, Healy had led Charlotte to its first-ever bowl appearance and spread covers in 5 of 6 as a regular-season visitor.
Coastal Carolina @

We’re not sure how often Coastal has been circled on the calendar of an opponent, but rest assured Kansas is going to be fully-focused after being stunned 12-7 by the Chants at Lawrence last September 7. It was only the second games of the new Les Miles regime for the Jayhawks, and much ballyhoo beforehand involved the return to active duty of star KU RB Pooka Williams, Jr., who was forced to sit with a one-game suspension for the previous week’s opener against Indiana State. Williams did gain 99 YR but was outshined by Coastal counterpart C.J. Marable, who rumbled for 148 YR as the Chants overcame some poor place-kicking by Massimo Biscardi (missed PAT and 0 for 2 on FG tries) and a 7-6 halftime deficit. It was another failure in a rare chalk role for the Jayhawks, who have covered the spread only 4 times in 15 tries, under a variety of different head coaches, laying points since 2012. Note that KU is one of several college entries that, for the moment at least, is not planning on fans being in attendance at home games this season.
Western Kentucky @

This matchup made easy sense for the ‘Ville as its lone allowed non-conference game (as dictated by the ACC), especially after blood rival Kentucky was not going to be permitted to play games outside of the SEC. So a minor tweak of the schedule moved up this battle vs. downstate WKU two weeks from its original September 26 date. Seeds of a colorful recurring rivalry have been planted the past two years in Cardinal wins (in 2018, the 20-17 escape by UL was its only FBS win of a season that soon went off the rails and forced HC Bobby Petrino to walk the plank in November, before the campaign concluded). Last year, this clash proved an early confirmation of the ‘Ville’s 2019 improvement under new HC Scott Satterfield in the 38-21 win on September 14, played at Nashville’s Nissan Stadium, suggesting some regional appeal for this burgeoning rivalry if it chooses to play at a neutral venue. The result highlighted the improved depth and direction of the Card program under Satterfield, as then-starting QB Jawon Pass was ruled out due to afoot injury, and RS frosh Micale Cunningham answered the call and led four first-half TD drives as the ‘Ville built an insurmountable 31-7 lead at the break. It was the second straight season that Cunningham had been called on in relief of Pass vs. the Tops, as Cunningham had saved the 2018 game after getting the call from the bullpen, and after last September’s 38-21 win would be the ‘Ville starter the rest of the way in 2019. Satterfield’s quick reclamation project eventually would result in a six-win improvement from 2018, all of the way to 8-5 and a Music City Bowl win over Mississippi State. Meanwhile, WKU soon began to generate momentum under its own first-year HC, Tyson Helton, as WKU only lost twice thereafter (also subsequent 7-2-1 vs. line), culminated by an exciting win over Western Michigan in the First Responder Bowl.
Clemson @
Wake Forest

As it reflates to this battle vs. Clemson, we wonder if Wake Forest HC Dave Clawson will be moved to repeat Rocky Balboa’s line from Rocky III as he climbed in the ring to face Clubber (Mr. T) Lang..“I was hoping he didn’t show up.” No one could blame Clawson hoping the Tigers don’t show after his Deacs have been annihilated a combined 115-6 across the past two years against Dabo Swinney’s powerhouse. Last term, things improved slightly from the 63-3 shellacking absorbed in Winston-Salem in 2018; it was “only” 52-3 at Death Valley a year ago. The main storyline of that slaughter was authored by the Clemson defense, which suffocated a Jamie Newman-led Wake attack that could only gain 105 yards all afternoon, while decorated Tiger QB Trevor Lawrence tossed 4 TDs before calling it a day in the 3 rd Q after the lead had ballooned to 45-3. Interestingly, Wake had covered the previous four meetings in this ACC Atlantic series prior to 2018, though the Deacs haven’t beaten Clemson outright since Jim Grobe’s 2008 edition won by a 12-7 count on a Thursday night in Winston-Salem...the final game for Tigers HC Tommy Bowden, who resigned under pressure after the loss, replaced by none other than promoted assistant Dabo Swinney. Note Clemson is 16-4-1 since 2017 laying points (mostly big points) away from Death Valley.
Duke @
Notre Dame

Quick thinking by Notre Dame, which was able to salvage a viable schedule for 2020 by completely embracing its connection to the ACC, with which it is contractually obligated to play five or six games per season per the agreement that has allowed the Fighting Irish to become a full-fledged ACC member in other sports, basketball in particular. The Domers had been placed in a predicament in the summer by the Big Ten and Pac-12 (which accounted for a combined three games on the 2020 ND schedule), which canceled their seasons altogether, while the clash originally scheduled for this weekend vs. Arkansas was scotched by the SEC’s decision to play conference-only games. With six ACC foes already on the 2020 slate, late scheduling adjustments were doable, even though it required this matchup vs. Duke being moved seven weeks forward from its original Halloween date. The Irish thus become a full-fledged ACC member for this season only, eligible for the conference championship, though this is only planned as a one-year arrangement. Welcome to 2020! For the moment, Notre Dame also plans to limit capacity to 20% at home games this season, which translates to roughly 16,000 fans. As for Duke, if its new QB sounds familiar to ACC followers, it should, as ex-Clemson backup QB Chase Brice has transferred and is scheduled to be the Blue Devils’ starter. Brice, if you recall, came off the bench after Trevor Lawrence’s injury and the transfer early in the week of Kelly Bryant to save a 27-23 win over Syracuse in late September of 2018, Clemson’s closest call in what would eventually be Dabo Swinney’s second national title season. Also of interest in Durham is that HC David Cutcliffe has re-assumed his old play-calling duties that he relinquished the past four seasons. Note that before covering only 2 of 7 tries as an underdog last year, Duke HC David Cutcliffe had fashioned a stellar 25-12-1 underdog mark between 2013-18, which included a rousing 38-35 upset win as a 20½ -point dog at South Bend in 2016.
LA Tech @

First game in his new job for Bears HC Dave Aranda, most recently the highly-paid defensive coordinator for Ed Orgeron at LSU. The Baylor gig opened when Matt Rhule was lured to the NFL by the Carolina Panthers after the Bears finished a surprising 11-3 last season and teased at qualification for the Final Four into November. This will be Aranda’s first head-coaching assignment. Some noteworthy technical consideration here on the La Tech side, as the Bulldogs have been ornery in the underdog role since HC Skip Holtz arrived in 2014. Skip’s teams have made papa Lou proud by recording a notable 19-8-1 mark as an underdog since he arrived at Ruston in 2014. The Bulldogs are also 13-7-1 vs. line their last 21 away from Joe Aillet Stadium. Meanwhile, even as the Bears re-awakened under Rhule the past couple of years, Baylor is surprisingly just 2-8 as Waco chalk since 2017 and has only covered 1 of last 6 hosting non-Big 12 foes.

The Miners, who kicked off last weekend against Southland rep Stephen F. Austin, entered this season as one of the most downtrodden programs in the land, losing an astounding 34 of their last 36 games since the 2017 campaign. Third-year HC Dana Dimel, who a generation ago looked to be an up-and-comer in the coaching ranks when leading programs at Wyoming and Houston before a long run on Bill Snyder’s K-State staff, is only responsible for 22 of those losses (compared to 2 wins) since 2018. Even with benefit of many big pointspreads the past few years, UTEP is just 10-26 vs. the line since 2017. Some conflicting technical history as it relates to this spot for Texas; while Tom Herman teams have been formidable as an underdog, they have underachieved as home chalk, just 5-10 in that role with Texas since 2017, and only 8-18-1 in role since 2015 with Houston. But note that Herman’s Longhorns teams are also 8-3 vs. line last 11 against non-Big 12 foes, and after dropping 6 of 7 vs. the line as double-digit chalk in 2017-18, Texas covered all three chances laying DDs a year ago.
Tulsa @
Oklahoma State

These cross-state foes don’t meet annually as they did in the ‘80s and ‘90s, occasionally squaring off against one another this millennium. Only four times since 2010 have they clashed, though that’s been four times too many for the Golden Hurricane, which hasn’t won or covered a spread in any of those matchups. And, until losing by a more-respectable 40-21 count last term, Tulsa had not allowed fewer than 59 points against the Cowboys in the other meetings within the past decade! Ok State took a while to get going in last September’s win at Chapman Stadium, even trailing 21-20 at the break before dismantling Tulsa in the second half behind RB Chuba Hubbard’s 256 YR and 3 TDs, while big-play WR Tylan Wallace broke the backs of the Golden Hurricane with a 90-yard TD reception from QB Spencer Sanders in the 3rd Q , shaking off a pass interference foul at midfield and prancing the last 50 yards for the decisive TD. It was the first game for the Cowboys after the passing of school and program benefactor T. Boone Pickens earlier in the week. Note that non-conference games have been good for OSU, as Mike Gundy has now won and covered the spread in 14 straight against non-Big 12 foes, dating to early 2016!